Residents of Colorado and other southwestern states often see reports of local crimes originated by criminals in Mexico. As a result, many worry about how effectively Mexican officials are addressing cross-border crime.
In some cases, Coloradoans decide to get personally involved. Becoming a police officer or a Border Patrol agent, for example, puts someone on the front lines of cross-border law enforcement. Creating effective public policy as a top expert in law enforcementis another way to fight cross-border crime. For example, some people enroll in Colorado degree programs to earn a master’s degree in criminology. Their criminology training qualifies them to become high-level law enforcement or criminal justice officials.
Many Colorado residents rely on elected officials like Attorney General John Suthers to come up with cross-border crime solutions. In March 2014, Attorney General Suthers plans to meet with colleagues from four other states (Idaho, Nevada, California and New Mexico) and from Mexico to discuss cross-border crime. The American attorneys general will be joined by Mexican state attorneys general from Baja California, Chihuahua, Zacatecas, Campeche and Sonora as well as by Mexico’s Attorney General, Jesus Murillo Karam. Together, these American and Mexican officials hope to develop effective deterrents and end the most common cross-border crimes.
International Money Laundering
Money laundering, or an attempt to disguise the source and quantity of revenue made from criminal activity, has been a problem for Mexican banks and now plagues U.S. law enforcement. An American branch of Grupo Financio Banorte, for example, was fined $475,000 by FINRA in early 2014 for money laundering. The branch opened an account for someone with known ties to a drug cartel and failed to stop $28 million from rapidly flowing in and out of the account. Another bank, HSBC, paid a $1.92 billion fine in the U.S. last year after being charged with money laundering for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.
Intellectual Property Theft and Counterfeit Goods
Sales of counterfeit or pirated goods fund many cross-border criminal activities. For example, La Familia Morelia Michochana, a well-known Mexican organized crime group, makes about $2.4 million per day by selling counterfeit goods in the United States. In particular, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, La Familia Morelia Michochana makes money selling pirated software and stamps the counterfeitgoods, like CD-ROMs, with the initials “FMM.” Thankfully, Mexico’s Servicio de AdministracionTributaria (SAT) has helped U.S. officials track counterfeit goods sales in Mexico’s largest cities. In fact, the agency helped U.S. law enforcement officials seize counterfeit NFL merchandise during Super Bowl week. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, more than 900,000 jobs in the state of Colorado alone are put in jeopardy by the sale of counterfeit goods.
Mexican narcotics gangs like the Zetas are known to be involved in human trafficking, and Mexican authorities are working to shut down their networks. According to the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, about 2.5 million people at any one time are victims of human trafficking. In Mexico, organized crime is involved in about 70 percent of human trafficking cases. “The cartels know drugs can only be sold once,” Teresa Ulloa, director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean, told Time Magazine, “but women can be sold again and again and again.”
The U.S. Secret Service, which has 31 different Electronic Crimes Task Forces, reports financial fraud crimes perpetrated by cybercriminals costs the U.S. financial infrastructure billions of dollars each year. Increasingly, Mexico is becoming a global hub for cybercrime. The country ranks eighth in the world for incidences of identity theft and is also the world’s largest distributor of child pornography. A study released by Trend Micro and the Organization of American States reported a 40-percent increase in cyberattacks in Mexico, and many of these are related to organized crime.
The meeting between U.S. and Mexican attorneys general may not fully resolve the problem of cross-border crime, but it’s an important step toward increased cooperation. Colorado residents should support the efforts of Attorney General Suthers and his colleagues as they work to stop problems like transnational money laundering, counterfeit goods and intellectual property theft, human trafficking and cybercrime.